“From the library point of view, the high-minded answer is the past and the present give their history in trust to the future. We're sort of the midwife for that. We hold that in trust for future generations,” he said. It's “the history of us.”
His favorite books in the Oklahoma Room?
“And Satan Came Also: An inside story of a city's social and political history,” by Albert Leroy McRill, former Oklahoma City manager, from 1955. About? Oklahoma City, of course.
Charles Colcord's autobiography also is among Johnson's favorites. Colcord came to Oklahoma in the Land Run of 1889 and was an early lawman, builder and developer. He died in 1934, although “The Autobiography of Charles Francis Colcord, 1859-1934” was privately published in 1970.
He said his favorite photos in Oklahoma Images are from Oklahoma City in the 1910s showing horse-drawn vehicles, automobiles, a streetcar and bicycles — the young city at crossroads of time and technology.
“You can see the city transforming. It's getting taller. It looks almost like an East Coast city,” Johnson said, noting that public contributions to the library's image collection exploded after it was put online (go to www.mls.
Which brings up an example of a happy day for Johnson: “When someone comes in and says, ‘I was cleaning out this old building and I've got this box of photographs. Do you want them?”
Which brings up an example of a challenging kind of day, which might be sparked by something found in such a donation: “I really take the job seriously. I really feel that it's important. It's almost overwhelming. There's always something I don't know. ... There's always the challenge to find the missing link or the missing piece of documentation.”
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Special collections/reference librarian